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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 82 - 1 John 5:13 - Eternal Life in Believing Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius

Index

LXXXII.

 

Eternal Life In Believing.

 

     "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."-1 John 5:13.

 

 

     It is the beloved disciple who here writes to us, expressing his own mind and that of the Holy Ghost; he who of all the disciples had been nearest to the Master, and known both the love and the life that were in Him; he who said, 'In Him was life, and the life was the light of men,'-it is he who writes to us these words of grace. Let us listen to him. We shall find in what he says little about himself, but much about the Master. With Him Christ is all and in all.

     I. To whom he writes.-'To them that believe on the name of the Son of God.' This is their special mark or character; that by which the Holy Spirit distinguishes them, and by which He would have them know themselves. They are not singled out as better or worthier than others; they were part of that world which lieth in wickedness. But they believed in the name of the Son of God, and this made them what they became. They have nothing to say for themselves but this, 'We believed in the name of the Son of God;' or, as John puts it elsewhere, 'We have known and believed the love that God hath to us.' God's description of a Christian is just 'He is one who believes on the name of His Son.' How simple and comforting! How this brushes aside the metaphysical and unbelieving perplexities with which many souls surround themselves; dwelling on marks and evidences innumerable, instead of at once taking themselves the comfort of knowing that a Christian is one who believes in the name of the Son of God!  Let us mark each word. (1) 'The Son of God:' the only-begotten of the Father; the Word; the Christ; God manifest in the flesh; the Son of God. (2) The name: that revealed display of this Son of God which has been given us by the testimony of the Father to the Son; not simply the words or names, but the name; the divine revelation or interpretation of the character, the person, the work of His Son. (3) 'Believe:' receive the Father's testimony as such; not man's word, but God's. Our reception of the Father's testimony to the true character of the Son;-this it is that makes us Christians. This is the divine definition or designation of a Christian man,-he believes on name of the Son of God.

     II.  What he writes.-'These things have I written you.' This refers not to the preceding verses to the whole epistle. Let us note some things which embody the substance of what John writes.

     (1.) The life was manifested.-It came out, and it came down to us. It was not hidden or mysterious.

     (2.)  The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sins.-Both in his gospel and in his epistle he bears witness of the blood,-the cleansing blood.

     (3.) Confession and forgiveness.-The sinner says, 'I have sinned;' God says, 'I freely pardon.'

     (4.) The love of God.-He laid down His life for us. Herein is love! Love in coming and in dying. God is love.

     (5.) Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.-The message is that Jesus is the Christ; and that he who believeth it becomes a son.

     (6.) This is the record, that God hath, given to us eternal life.-A record or testimony from God is proclaimed to us. It is a testimony concerning life, and concerning Him in whom it is.

     These are some of the things concerning which John here speaks. They are all of them most good and true. They suit us, and they are meant for us. They are the fountainhead of blessing, the wells of living water, at which we stand and drink. They carry us back to the closing chapters of John's gospel, and specially to that verse, 'These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name' (John 20:31).

     III. Why he writes.-His purpose in writing is thus stated: 'That ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.' It is a twofold object that he has in view in writing.

     (1.) That they might know that they had eternal life.-To have a thing, and to know that we have it, are not always the same thing. I may have a thing, and yet I may be unconscious or incredulous of possessing it. John writes these blessed words of truth that we may know that we have life in believing on the name of the Son of God. He thus rebukes and condemns those who say, I believe on the name of the Son of God, yet I don't know whether I have life. He tells us that they who believe have the life, and ought to be satisfied of this, and not to remain uncertain. It is as if he were speaking to some and saying, 'You do not know your privileges: you say you believe, yet you are still hesitating as to whether any consequences flow to you from that believing; you are still as uncertain as to your being in possession of eternal life as if you had never believed at all.' He writes to remove all doubt and darkness and distrust. The things which he writes are such, that, as soon as believed, they ought to assure us that we are heirs of life eternal.

     (2.) That they might believe on the name of the Son of God.-That is, that they might go on in this their faith, continuing as they had begun; not resting on a past faith, but increasing more and more in this belief. Often in the gospels we read that 'His disciples believed on Him,' though they had believed already. What Jesus did or spoke increased and strengthened faith. So is it here. John's object in what he writes is to give us a new impulse in believing; for, just as we need continual breathing and feeding, so we need continual believing. The air we breathe and the food we eat must be pure and wholesome, so must the doctrine be on which our faith is nourished. Do we seek continuance of faith, increase of faith? Read and re-read what John has written. Thus faith comes; and thus it waxes stronger and stronger.